Purring an Audience to Death

Rogue intends to be a conservation film. When it begins, poachers slaughter lions, and pick at the parts to decide which offers the most profit. It’s gruesome. A final text scrawl notes the prevalence with which these farms exist – legally – throughout Africa.

Yet the execution makes Rogue as effective at social outrage as retweeing a KONY 2012 image. Rogue follows ex-Marine mercenaries out to rescue abused school-age girls, on the run from those poachers. It’s competent, modestly budgeted action fare, showing car chases and grenades and yelling and gunfire.

Then the lions fight back.

It’s such a bizarre morality play, juggling ideology and entertainment. Rogue is a monster movie in which the creatures it means to protect chew on cast members, villain or hero. “Preserve this,” Rogue asks, while zooming in on a lioness gnawing someone’s throat because, as a character explains earlier, occasionally female lions enjoy killing.

Rogue sends a slew of animal attack scenes onto the screen, hoping for tension to stick

Injured and back literally against a wall, Bo Yinn (Kenneth Fok) delivers a speech about how awful mankind is, this coming with only minutes to go in case the messaging wasn’t yet clear. After the shooting and gory kills, the cynicism isn’t subtle. Then again, Rogue isn’t aiming for subtle either.

While wearing its politics on its sleeve (the shirt covering political tattoos), Rogue sends a slew of animal attack scenes onto the screen, hoping for tension to stick. Instead, it’s barren. A contrived sequence finds night vision goggles malfunctioning; the clumsy soldier drops the Duracells (the battery logo/product placement unmistakable in close-up), leading to a scramble to find AAs in the dark. He’s better off without the visual aid – all he’ll see is a dismal SyFy Channel-esque lion roaming through scenery. It’s one thing to shrug off effects inconsistencies for budget restrictions; it’s another when those effects collapse the intended drama and reality.

Megan Fox takes the lead role, thinly credible, if taking down some barriers to a part like this. A little feminism doesn’t hurt, at least until (loosely suggested) the killer lion syncs with Fox’s plan in the finale. That’s absurd, but so is most of Rogue.

Video

Other than low light noise (and, potentially, some purposefully added grit) Rogue’s digital cinematography looks stellar. Exceptional clarity invites heavy, sharp texture into the frame. Facial definition remains consistent, even in low light and mid-range imagery. Although likely a 2K source, such detail suggests better. Rogue’s sharpness spares nothing, capturing South African location shots, preserving their beauty.

Night brings thick black levels, demanding precision. Rogue doesn’t always fall to the lowest and deepest tiers, but maintains persistent dimension. There’s no loss of depth. Shadow details hang around unfazed. Pleasant contrast filters in too, from the opening outdoor scenes during the day, to those dimmer images under a full moon.

Intending to show African beauty, Rogue still uses an ugly yellow-ish filter under sunlight. It’s all too common to see foreign countries bathed in this noxious hue. While adding more warmth than some, it’s still glazing Rogue with a jaundiced appearance. Nightfall cools things down at least, primarily soaking in a deepened blue. Primaries rarely jump out.

Audio

Mixed way, way too low, punching up the volume brings some range to this DTS-HD track. Gunfire adds slight low-end punchiness. Dueling explosions that book-end the film generate solid bass. Unspectacular, if passable.

Debris fields and shoot-outs spread across the soundstage, using extensive discrete activity. Rears and stereos factor into the mix frequently, building some scale in the action. Accurate and active, if restrained.

Extras

Director M.J. Bassett factors into both included commentary tracks, the first by herself, and on the second, she’s joined by actors Philip Winchester and writer/actress Isabel Bassett. Five interviews follow, made for EPK features, included in their entirety here, running 48-minutes total.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Rogue
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Visibly digital lions kill people throughout Rogue, a movie trying to convince people to stop killing lions.

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